A Broken Saw

When rogues fall out, our fathers said,
True men come by their own.
That proverb's now, by fact quite dead
Against it, overthrown.
Lo, North and South the sword have drawn,
And meet with bayonets crossed;
Our supply of cotton’s gone,
Our weavers’ living lost.

Title:A Broken Saw


Publication:Ashton And Stalybridge Reporter

Published in:Ashton-under-Lyne

Date:May 10th 1862

Keywords:poverty, unemployment, war, work


This short, anonymously-written poem, condemns both sides in the American Civil War as “rogues”, and disclaims the possibility that any heroism might emerge from the conflict. Rather, the poem concludes with the poignant line “Our weaver’s living lost”, offering little hope of economic recovery or charity, or any of the sense of a greater good to be found in the War through the abolition of slavery. – RM

At a mere eight lines long, this work associates itself with the proverb tradition it refers to at the beginning. This is also in line with its ballad meter (iambic tetrameter and trimeter alternated) which was a common form for proverbs in rhyme. The end of the poem reveals the form of address to be first person plural, with the ‘us/our/we’ probably representing Lancashire. – SR